Our country isn’t big on accountability when it comes to Trump, writes Jaala Brown about Gen Z’s first-time voting experience truly like no other.
On the night of November 8, 2016, I remember sitting on the edge of my bed in my room, flipping through news channels while doing homework, anxiously awaiting the election results. I continued to ask myself, who was it going to be, Trump or Clinton?
My parents were in the next room, with no idea how invested I was in this election. They had no clue that I was actually into politics, but how could they? Back in the 80s when they were 15, they had no concern with who was running for president or who won for that matter.
But my generation, Gen Z, is the complete opposite.
I sat down with my best friend from high school, who now is one of my college roommates at George Mason University, to discuss our first-time voting experiences in 2020.
“I wanted to vote so bad in 2016. It was crazy because this was basically a celebrity turned politician on the ballot.” Camille, who was also 15 at the time, said of Trump. Camille has always made it clear that she wants to see a change for our generation and she uses her voice to empower herself and others.
Like her and others of my generation at that moment in 2016, I wanted to express my right to vote. I wanted to make my voice heard.
After four years of waiting, Gen Z was finally about to get their big moment to make their voice heard for the very first time.
I began paying close attention to the election in 2019 because if I was going to vote for the future of this country for the first time, I wanted to do it right. Then, something unexpected happened. Something no one from my generation could have foreseen in 2016.
In March of 2020, the world shut down. Everything stopped. Camille and I both had to pack our bags, leave campus and come back home because everything and everywhere was closed.
“March 11 was my 19th birthday, and that was the very last day I can remember not having to wear a mask in public,” Camile said.
Throughout that month, multiple stay-at-home orders were set in place across the country. The next thing I knew the entire country, the entire world was in lockdown.
“Everything was shutting down and I was like Oh My God we have to adapt to this new normal,” said Camille.
Not only did we have to adapt to this new normal, but we had to ride the crazy socio-political rollercoaster of 2020.
Over 900,000 Americans have died from Covid, millions have lost their jobs, the Black Lives Matter Movement had taken full force in the summer following the murder of George Floyd, and the climate crisis continued to peak due to 2020 on the record being the hottest year.
All considered it’s safe to say one of the biggest stories of the year was the 2020 election between Trump and Biden.
“We really have to vote, for the first time, is probably the craziest, most bizarre year, in a pandemic,” Camille told me.
“I thought that I would simply go to the polls on Election Day, cast my vote, get my voting sticker, and go home like it was just a regular Tuesday, but instead we had to vote for the future of our country in the midst of complete chaos,” said Camille.
Due to the pandemic, this election process was truly like no other.
Americans were given two options to vote in person or to vote by mail.
In September of 2020, registered voters were able to visit polling locations or cast their absentee ballot in person.
Many Americans were eligible to vote by mail. Some states had deadlines to request mail-in ballots less than two weeks before Election Day.
After witnessing numerous Trump supporter rallies in my hometown during the election season, my dad feared a rally would break out at the polls on Election Day. He insisted that I vote early in person in October, so I could get a normal experience with no disruptions.
The Friday I went to the polls with my mom to cast my vote, I remember the line to get in was long due to everyone having to remain 6 feet apat.
“My parents voted by mail, but I voted early in person so I could attempt to get a regular experience, whatever that was supposed to mean in 2020,” said Camille.
As the pressure heated up, the country began to approach November 3, Election Day.
“I just knew by the end of the day we’ll know who the president is and hopefully all of this stress will be over.”
But this was not the case.
Because of health concerns for gathering in large crowds at the polls, millions of Americans across the country cast their vote through the mail, while some were made on election day, and some made in-person early, resulting in the counting process taking what seemed like forever.
“The process was taking forever. I remember texting you each time a new state’s projection came in,” said Camille.
On November 4, while votes were still being counted, Trump noticed the results were no longer going in his favor prompting him to announce that “all voting should stop” and “as far as I am concerned, we already have won this.”
While Trump and his campaign were filing lawsuit after lawsuit, and Trump supporters were believing every word he said, the counting in many states continued while millions of people anxiously waited for the results.
And Gen Z wouldn’t be Gen Z if there weren’t memes made out of the delayed results ordeal.
“It was crazy one minute I am scrolling on my timeline looking at memes about states turning blue and red, the next I see ‘stop the steal’ trending online,” said Camille. She reminded me of how she “Never watched CNN for so many hours and days in a row in my entire life. I was glued to the screen for days. This election process was like a drama series.”
Approximately 57% of people from the ages 18-34 voted in the 2020 election, which was a 49% increase from the 2016 election for this age group.
After 3 days of uncertainty, on November 7, it was announced that Democrat nominee Joe Biden will be the 46thPresident of the United States in the 306-232 vote.
“Soon as I heard the news I screamed in my house, texted all my friends, and immediately posted on social media, it was a moment, I had to!” Camille explains.
Over 159 million people voted in the 2020 election and Biden won 51.3 percent of those votes. With this historic election, Biden was able to win six swing states including Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Wisconsin, and Georgia.
“People were dancing in the street, people were happy and celebrating, you thought it was over until you realized the craziness wasn’t over,” said Camille.
“The simple fact is this election is far from over,” said Trump the same day Biden was projected the winner, refusing to concede.
Trump quickly formed the infamous statement “the Big Lie” insinuating that the election was stolen from him.
In almost every key state Trump lost, he pushed the idea that there was voter fraud without having any sufficient evidence to back up his claims.
The President and his team filed a total of 62 lawsuits in state and federal courts asking to overturn the election results, in only the states that he lost.
“I mean come on, isn’t that ironic, he only believed there was voter fraud in the states he didn’t win. What about the voter fraud in states Trump did win?”
61 out of the 62 lawsuits filed to challenge the presidential election. The U.S Supreme court even denied his requests due to there being no substantial evidence of voter fraud.
“There was literally no proof of any fraud, and facts are facts. Biden is the new president and we needed to move on,” argued Camille.
The 2020 election was the “most secure in U.S. History” said Chris Krebbs, former Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency whom Trump fired after not going along with his lies.
This still did not stop Trump from spreading the ‘Big Lie’. The talk of the 2020 election and voter fraud traveled into the year 2021.
“It’s a new year, we have a new president, vaccines are out, things are starting to fall into place, until I witnessed January 6.”
On January 6, Trump spoke to supporters at the Save America rally, telling them “We fight like hell, and if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore,” while lawmakers were gathered in the House chamber to count Electoral College votes.
It is estimated that 800 individuals out of a crowd of 10,000 people, stormed the Capitol, fought police, and forced Congress members to hide for their lives.
“Absolutely insane. I was actually tuned in to the hearing about the votes, and the next thing I know I’m seeing madmen in the halls of the Capitol. Once again, I was glued to my phone and my screen for hours as I watched this all unfold.” said Camille.
More than 400 Capitol rioters now are facing legal charges.
On February 9, the House impeached Trump, for the second time, for inciting the violence at the Capitol. However, the Senate voted on February 13, to acquit Trump of the charge of inciting the deadly attack.
“I actually wasn’t surprised when I heard he was acquitted; this country isn’t big on accountability when it comes to Trump.”
But accountability might not be out of the picture.
On May 19, four months after the insurrection, the House voted to approve the January 6 commission in 252-175 vote, despite opposition from some Republican Congress members, including House Minority Leader McCarthy.
The legislation now awaits a vote in the Senate.
“Here we are 6 months later, and it seems that we are still talking about Trump, still talking about the election, and still arguing about Jan 6.”
A Reuters/Ipsos poll finds that 55% of Republicans believe that the election results were due to illegal voting, and 60% believe the election was stolen from Trump.
“I am very invested in politics, and into the future of this country. I have been watching this story for months and I still don’t believe that this election was stolen.”
For an election process that seemed like it would never end, Gen Z hopes to one day experience a “normal” election.
“With our political climate, I do not believe we’ll ever have a normal election again. But we as a generation must make it a responsibility that we never have an election like this ever again. In order to do that, we must never elect someone like Trump again. This isn’t about right or left. It’s about right and wrong.” Camille believes.
It’s about Democracy. It’s about the trust Gen Z will or won’t have for future elections to come, because of the trauma from this first experience.
It’s about ensuring I, Camille, and the rest of Gen Z will be able to use our voice, and make ourselves heard, without having to worry about democracy being at stake.